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SHELLS, AND SYSTEMS FOUNDED ON SHELLS. It has happened with shells as with eels—they have founded new systems. In several parts of this globe masses of shells are found, and in some others petrified oysters; thence we conclude, that notwithstanding the laws of gravitation and those of fluids, and notwithstanding the depth of the bed of the ocean, the sea covered all the earth some millions of years ago.
The sea having thus successively inundated the earth, has formed mountains by its currents and tides; and though its flux rises only to the height of fifteen feet, in its greatest swells, on our coast it has produced rocks eighteen thousand feet high.
If the sea has covered every place, there was a time in which the world was peopled by fishes alone. By degrees, their fins have become arms; their forked tails being lengthened have formed legs and thighs; finally, fishes have become men; and all this is proved by the shells which have been dug up.
These systems admirably prove the horror of à void; substantial forms; globular, subtle, and tubular matter; the negation of the existence of body; the divining rod of James Aimard ; pre-established harmony, and perpetual motion.
It is said, there are immense wrecks of shells near Maestricht. I do not contradict it, though I have seen very few there. The sea has made horrible
ravages in these quarters; it has swallowed the half of Friesland, having covered lands formerly fertile, and spared others. It is an acknowledged truth, no person disputes it—that changes have taken place on the surface of the globe in a long course of years.
An earthquake might physically, and without contradicting our holy books, cause the island Atlantides to disappear nine thousand years before Plato; as he himself relates, though his memoirs are not correct. All this however fails to prove, that the sea produced Mount Caucasus, the Pyrenees, and the Alps.
It is pretended, that there are fragments of shells at Montmartre, and at Courtagnon, near Rheims. We meet with them almost everywhere, but not on the summits of mountains, as is supposed by the system of Maillet.
There is not a single one on the chain of high mountains from Sierra Morena to the last ridge of the Appenines. I have sought for them on Mount St. Gothard, Mount St. Bernard, and the mountains of the Tarentais, and have not discovered any.
One physician only has written to me, that he has found a petrified oyster shell near Mount Cenis. I ought to believe him, and I am very much astonished that hundreds have not been seen there. The neighbouring lakes nourish great muscles, the shells of which perfectly resemble those of oysters; they are even called little oysters in more than one province.
Besides, is it altogether a romantic idea to reflect on the innumerable number of pilgrims who departed on foot from St. James in Galicia, and all the provinces, to go to Rome by Mount Cenis with shells in their bonnets! They came from Syria, Egypt, and Greece, as from Poland and Austria. The number of palmers has been a thousand times more considerable than that of the Hagis who have visited Mecca and Medina, because the roads of Rome are more easy, and they have not been forced to
In a word, an oyster near Mount Cenis proves not that the Indian ocean enveloped all the lands of our hemisphere.
In turning over the earth, we sometimes meet with strange petrifactions, as in Austria we meet with medals struck at Rome; but as to a foreign petrifaetion, there are a thousand in our climates.
Some one has said, that he would as soon believe marble to be composed of ostrich feathers, as porphyry to be composed of particles of ursines. If I am not deceived, this person had doubtless good reason.
Some years ago there were discovered, or at least it was thought so, the skeletons of a rein deer and a hippopotamus, near Estampes, and thence it was concluded that the Nile and Lapland had been formerly
on the road from Paris to Orleans. We should rather have suspected, that a virtuoso had formerly the skeleton of a rein deer and a hippopotamus in his cabinet. An hundred other such examples lead us to examine a long time before we believe.
Beds of Shells. A THOUSAND places are filled with a thousand beds of testaceous and crustaceous substances and petrifactions; but let us once more remark, that it is scarcely ever either on the extremities, or on the sides of this line of mountain, with which the surface of the globe is crossed. It is at some leagues from these great bodies; it is in the midst of lands; in caverns; in places where it is very likely that there were lakes which have disappeared; small rivers whose courses have changed; considerable brooks, whose sources are dry. You there see beds of tortoises, crabs, muscles, snails, minute river petrifactions, small oysters similar to those of Lorraine; but true marine substances are what you
If there were any, why have we never seen bones of sea dogs, sharks, and whales?
You pretend that the sea has left in our lands signs of a very long stay. The most certain monument would assuredly be some mass of porpuses in the midst of Germany. When you have discovered them, and I shall have seen them at Nuremburg and Frank, fort, I will believe you; but in the mean time permit me to class the majority of these suppositions with that of the petrified vessel found in the canton of Berne, an hundred feet under ground, whilst one of its anchors was on mount St. Bernard.
I have sometimes seen beds of muscles and snails, which have been mistaken for sea shells.
If we could only fancy, that in a rainy year there were more snails in ten leagues of country than men on the earth, we might dispense with seeking elsewhere the origin of these fragments of shells with which the shores of the Rhine and those of other rivers are covered for the space of several miles. There are many of these snails which are more than an
inch in diameter. The multitude of them sometimes destroyed vines and fruit trees; and fragments of their shells are found everywhere. Why then should we imagine that Indian shells are amassed in our climates, when we have them among us by millions ? . All these little fragments, about which so much noise is made to establish a system, are for the most part so shapeless, so decayed, and so indistinct, that we might equally believe that they are pieces of the shells of crabs or of crocodiles, or the nails of other animals. If we find a well-preserved shell in the cabinet of a virtuoso, we know not whence it comes; and I doubt whether it could serve for the foundation of a system of the universe.
Once more, I do not deny that at an hundred miles from the sea, we meet with petrified oysters, conches, univalves, productions which perfectly resemble marine ones; but are we sure that the soil of the earth cannot produce these fossils? The formation of vegetable agate, should it not make us suspend our judgment? A tree has not produced the agate which perfectly resembles a tree; neither may the sea have produced the fossil shells which resemble the habitations of little marine animals. The following facts will give evidence of it.
Of the Fairies' Grotto. Grottos, where stalactites and stalagmites are formed, are common. There are such in almost all the provinces. That of Chablais is perhaps the least known to men of science, and the most worthy to be so. It is situated amidst frightful rocks, in the centre of a forest of pines, at two short leagues from Ripaille, in the parish of Féterne. There are three grottos arching one over the other, hewn out by nature in an inaccessible rock. They can only be mounted by a ladder, and we must afterwards climb into these cavities, holding by branches of trees. This place is called by the people of the province the Fairies' Grotto. Each has in its floor a basin, the water of which is supposed to have the same virtue as that of St. Reine. The water which distils
from the largest has formed in the vault the figure of a hen covering her chickens. Near this hen is another concretion, which perfectly resembles a piece of bacon with its rind, of the length of three feet.
In the basin of this same grotto, in which people bathe, are found figures of frost, such as are sold by confectioners; and on the side, the form of a spinningwheel. Women of the environs pretend to hare seen in the extremity a petrified woman by the wheel, but recent observers have not seen this woman. Perhaps the stalactite concretions formerly outlined the indistinct shapeless form of a woman, and this is the cause of this cavern being called the Fairies' Grotto. There was a time when none dare approach it, but since the figure of the woman has disappeared, they have become less timid.
Now, if a systematical philosopher reasoned on this sport of nature, might he not say,—These are true petrifactions ? This grotto was doubtless formerly inhabited by a woman; she spun at the wheel, her bacon was hung up on the cieling, she had near her a hen with her chickens, she eat confectionary, until she was changed into a rock, with her fowls, bacon, spinning wheel, distaff, and confectionary, as Edith the wife of Lot was changed into a statue of salt. Antiquity abounds in these examples. It would be much more reasonable to
this woman was petrified, than to say that these little shells came from the Indian sea—this shell was left here by the sea fifty thousand ages ago—these glossopetres are the ' tongues of porpusses which assembled one day on this hill, only to leave their throats behind them these spiral stones formerly contained the fish nautilus, which no person has ever seen.
Of the Falun of Touraine and its Shells. The “ Falun" of Touraine is at last regarded as the most incontestable monument of the sojourn of the ocean upon our continent for a prodigious multitude of ages; and the reason is, it is pretended that mass is composed of pulverised shells.